Addressing Challenges in Process Automation and IIoT | Automation.com

Addressing Challenges in Process Automation and IIoT

Addressing Challenges in Process Automation and IIoT

By John Fryer, Senior Director of Industry Solutions, Stratus Technologies

Alongside the industry’s digital transformation, manufacturing companies are automating even more of their processes by leveraging the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). This process automation allows manufacturers to gather and analyze the huge amounts of data across the entire production chain – which was once a manual process. Through automation, organizations are also beginning to discover the benefits that come with addressing compute on the edge of the network, such as access to more real-time insights and improved operational efficiency. What’s more, pushing computing to the edge allows for quicker decision making and lower costs. And, it’s no surprise that adoption of this technology is on the rise – Garner is predicting 40 percent of enterprises will have an edge strategy in place by 2021.

In order to implement edge computing, operational technology (OT) and IT teams need to stop working in siloes and coexist, with OT supporting IT’s more complex infrastructures. However, these teams generally don’t have the experience or resources needed to manage these tasks. Manufacturing professionals looking to implement IIoT and edge computing need to ask themselves the following questions to identify underlying challenges and figure out how to address them.

  • What is the complexity of our automated plant environments?: OT teams need to assess the complexity of their plant automation efforts and navigate separate networks for process control and plant management, as well as individual servers for production applications. To solve this challenge, many industrial companies are leveraging virtualization to become more IIoT-ready. This technology reduces server sprawl and system management, while improving scalability and lowering infrastructure costs. Unfortunately, it also comes with risks because if several applications are running on one platform, that platform’s reliability becomes much more critical. This means it is essential to be using virtualized servers that are highly reliable and fault-tolerant to safeguard these critical applications.

  • What IT resources do we have to leverage?: Having limited IT resources is extremely common when implementing process automation in manufacturing. OT teams are not IT professionals but they’re still being tasked with the installation of these automated technologies. If your plant doesn’t have enough IT resources, you need to start thinking about the IT and OT roles differently – in fact, the need for employees with a dual IT/OT role who can bring a holistic perspective to the plant floor is paramount for success.

  • Do we have a data protection strategy in place?: If your answer is no, it’s imperative you work towards putting a strategy in place immediately. Pushing industrial data and critical applications to the edge requires a new way of thinking about data protection. IIoT projects rely on data, and any risk to that data can have an impact on the effectiveness of your projects. Data breaches or security risks can compromise your data. Your organization must prepare with technology designed specifically for security at the edge (as opposed to more generic offerings).

IIoT is touching industries across the industrial space, bringing with it the potential for these organizations to reap so many benefits like efficiency and productivity across the production line. With a greater understanding of the challenges that can arise when implementing IIoT projects, industrial companies will continue to see the benefits of this technology.

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